John C. Kirk - Lapland logistics

Jan. 26th, 2014

12:32 am - Lapland logistics

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It's now 8 weeks until the Winter Swimming World Championships, and I've just finalised my travel arrangements. There's a team of us going from my local swimming club, and most people are flying from Stansted to Tampere, then taking the train to Rovaniemi. However, I try to avoid planes nowadays (to reduce my oil dependency) so I'm taking a different route. The Seat61 website was very useful here, so I used that as a starting point, and I'll be using trains and ferries to get there and back.

The main snag is that this takes a lot longer, so between this and LARP I've already booked most of my annual leave for the year. It's also more expensive than flying, so I don't think people are going to abandon air travel en masse while it's quicker and cheaper. The other complication is that I've had to book my travel from lots of different companies, and the tickets have become available at different times, so this has been an ongoing job for several months. (I registered for the swimming races on 2013-06-19 and booked my final train tickets on 2014-01-24.) On the plus side, I think that travelling by train is generally more civilised than going by plane (e.g. I can take a bottle of water with me and I get more legroom), and I should get the opportunity to see a bit of the various cities when I change vehicle.

Here's my schedule for the outbound journey:

DayDateFromTimeToTimeMethodPricePrice (GBP)Comment
Mon2014-03-17Streatham13:38London St Pancras14:10First Capital Connect£2.30£2.30
Mon2014-03-17London St Pancras15:04Brussels18:05Eurostar£44.50£44.50Arrive at St Pancras at least 45 mins before check-in
Mon2014-03-17Brussels18:25Cologne20:15ICE€19.00£15.96Dinner in Cologne?
Mon2014-03-17Cologne22:28Copenhagen10:07City Night Line£54.00£54.00Sleeper train "Borealis"
Tue2014-03-18Copenhagen11:16Stockholm16:39SJ2000SEK 196.00£18.42High speed tilting train
Tue2014-03-18Stockholm20:00Turku07:35Viking Line ferry€91.50£76.86Dinner in Stockholm or on the ferry?
Wed2014-03-19Turku Satama08:30Helsinki10:58VR train€35.95£30.20
Wed2014-03-19Helsinki13:06Rovaniemi22:25VR train€104.80£88.03


In case it's not obvious, I'm using ISO 8601 format for the dates and the 24 hour clock for the times. All times are in local format, e.g. it's actually a 2 hour journey from St Pancras to Brussels even though the departure time and arrival time are 3 hours apart. Finland is 2 hours ahead of the UK.

I'm using the following conversion rates:
* €1.00 = £0.84 (Euro)
* SEK 1.00 = £0.09 (Swedish Krona)
Obviously these will fluctuate a bit, but it gives a rough idea.

The actual event runs from Thu 20th to Sun 23rd March, then we'll be leaving on Sunday evening. Here's my return journey:

DayDateFromTimeToTimeMethodPricePrice (GBP)Comment
Sun2014-03-23Rovaniemi21:19Helsinki09:00VR train€119.91£100.72
Mon2014-03-24Helsinki17:02Turku Satama19:12VR train€36.94£31.03
Mon2014-03-24Turku20:55Stockholm06:30Viking Line ferryBreakfast on ferry?
Tue2014-03-25Stockholm10:21Copenhagen15:32X2000SEK 196.00£18.42Lunch/dinner in Copenhagen?
Tue2014-03-25Copenhagen18:46Cologne06:14City Night Line€59.00£49.56Sleeper train "Borealis"
Wed2014-03-26Cologne07:43Brussels09:35ICE€19.00£15.96
Wed2014-03-26Brussels10:56London St Pancras11:57Eurostar£34.50£34.50
Wed2014-03-26London St Pancras12:04Streatham12:35First Capital Connect£2.30£2.30


(I haven't included a cost for the ferry between Turku and Stockholm, because I bought a return ticket rather than 2 singles. I haven't actually booked the tickets between Streatham and St Pancras, because I'll just use my Oyster card each day. This plan assumes that I'll go via the lido for a quick swim on my way there and my way back, but the alternative is to go to/from Croydon.)

So, the total cost for all this travel is about £580.

By contrast, here's the rough plan for the flying route:

DayDateFromTimeToTimeMethodPrice (GBP)
Wed2014-03-19London Stansted07:25Tampere12:10RyanAir£39
Wed2014-03-19Tampere15:00Rovaniemi22:25VR train£55
Sun2014-03-23Rovaniemi21:19Tampere05:48VR train£69
Mon2014-03-24Tampere12:35London Stansted13:30RyanAir£33


Total cost ~= £196, excluding travel to/from Stansted. (I'm guessing that they'll need to drive to the airport for the flight out, although they could take train/tube on the way back.) The rest of the team will be on the same trains to/from Rovaniemi, so I'll meet them at Tampere.

That is quite a significant difference, so I can't really fault anyone else for flying.

When I was booking these tickets, I noticed that I had to use different names for a few stations depending on the language of the website I was using. In particular:

EnglishFrenchSwedishGermanFlemish
Brussels South StnBrussels MidiBruxelles-MidiBrussel Zuid
CologneKOELN HBFKöln Hbf
CopenhagenKOEBENHAVN H


On a related note, there are 2 stations in Turku: "Turku Satama" is at the harbour, right next to the ferry port, and "Turku" is about 3 km away. For some reason, it takes 20-30 minutes for trains to get between those stations, even though they're so close together. However, the ferry just refers to Turku (not Turku Satama) so it can be slightly confusing.

Once I get to Cologne, I'm taking the City Night Line train to Copenhagen. Seat61 advised "always book a couchette". I tried to book this through the SNCF website, and they listed prices but they kept saying that tickets were unavailable, so I phoned the London booking office. When I phoned (2013-12-14), they could only book me a seat for the outbound journey, not the return, and I was a bit uneasy about that; my concern was that I'd get stuck with a ticket I couldn't use. (I later resigned myself to buying tickets piecemeal, with calendar reminders for when each leg of the journey would go on sale.) However, the website quoted me £131.50 for a place in a 6 berth couchette and booking it over the phone only cost me £54.00, so that was a significant saving! For the return trip, I used the DB Bahn website, and they charged me €59 for 1 person in a 6-berth cabin. I could also have paid €69 for 1 person in a 4-berth cabin, but if I'm going to be sharing a cabin with other people then it doesn't really make much difference to me whether I'm in a double bunk or a triple bunk.

After Copenhagen, I'm taking the SJ2000 (high speed tilting train) to Stockholm. There's a significant difference between ticket prices here:
* Refundable = SEK 1383 (~= £130)
* Rebookable = SEK 287 (~= £27)
* Non-rebookable = SEK 196 (~= 18)
Those are all 2nd class tickets, so it doesn't make any difference to the actual seat. However, the cheaper tickets are only released 90 days before departure, so this was another job for my calendar reminder. I've got the cheapest ticket, and I think that's decent value for a 5 hour journey; this price includes internet access for the entire journey. They do have food on the train, with a SEK 16 discount if you pre-book, but the veggie option is curry (which I'm not keen on) so I'll try to forage for something on the day; hopefully I can pick up a sandwich or something in Copenhagen.

After Stockholm, I'm taking the overnight Viking Line ferry to Turku. As with the overnight train, I needed to choose where I'd sleep. The prices vary quite a bit, depending on how swanky you want to get, e.g. €400 for a 2 bed outside cabin. Looking further down the scale, I was amused by the prices for a "B2P inside cabin" (2 beds): €40 for the whole cabin, or €42 for 1 bed male. I'm not sure why anyone would want to pay an extra €2 for the privilege of having an unknown roommate! Those prices are for single journeys, and if you buy a return then you don't get an option for individual beds, just the whole cabin. I opted for the "Inside Piccolo Two, 2 beds" (the cheapest option) which is recommended for single use. Maybe it's like camping, where an "n-person" tent is really intended for n-1 people.

I'm using VR trains to get between Turku Satama and Rovaniemi, and they have different types of ticket. I went through a booking agent, and I've got Basic Eco tickets. These are more flexible than Advance Eco (I can pay €5 to change the ticket, up to 24 hours after departure), but they're also more expensive (e.g. Helsinki to Rovaniemi costs €62.88 for Advance Eco or €104.80 for Basic Eco). If I'd gone through the website then I would have opted for Advance Eco, but I wanted to get into the same carriage as the rest of the team (who booked separately) so I needed to go via an agent. She didn't ask which type of ticket I wanted, and I didn't explicitly say, although I have already needed to change one ticket (after I got mixed up between the Turku stations) and she didn't charge me extra for that, so I'm not going to complain.

Once I arrive in Rovaniemi, I'll be staying at the Hotel Aakenus with the rest of the team.

The return trip is pretty similar, except that I'm taking an overnight train from Rovaniemi to Helsinki, so I'll be in a berth (cabin) with a bunk bed. That then means that I have 8 hours in Helsinki between trains, which will give me the opportunity to explore the city a bit.

As for the event itself, I'm doing 1 swim each day:
* Thu 20th = non-competitive seal (25m).
* Fri 21st = breaststroke (25m).
* Sat 22nd = non-competitive polar bear (50m).

There are also relay races on Sunday, although I'm not taking part in them. I don't have any illusions about my speed (my goal is just to survive the experience), and I don't want to slow other people down. I'm trying to organise a group to take part in the show swim event on Sunday (following on from our pantomime), but that's still up in the air at the moment.

When I'm not swimming, there will be other ways to keep myself occupied. There's an opening ceremony on Thursday, a gala dinner on Saturday (in the Hotel Santa Claus), and a closing ceremony on Sunday. The official website also has a list of activities, e.g. hiring a snowmobile and going out to see the Northern Lights, and I may see whether I can get Santa to send a postcard to my nephews.

I've also been pondering clothing. As for as the swimming goes, the rules say: "It's recommended the swimsuits not to have leaves or legs." That baffled me at first: are they expecting people to have strategically positioned fig leaves? Someone else then figured out that they probably meant "sleeves" rather than "leaves", which makes a bit more sense! More generally, the IISA (International Ice Swimming Association) follow the same rules as the English Channel Swimming Association, and I'm guessing that the WSWC have the same idea in mind. They said "recommended" rather than "compulsory", but after the leaves/sleeves mix-up this may just be an error in translation. That means that neither of my current swimsuits (baggy shorts or "jammers") would qualify, since they both go down to just above my knees, so I've bought some Speedo briefs to get into the spirit of the thing.

Once I'm out of the water, I'll obviously want to wear something a bit more substantial! When I'm indoors, I'll probably be fine with jeans and hat. For outdoors, I've still got my ski jacket (which I wear as a general purpose coat at this time of year) and I think I'll take along my ski trousers and base layers too. That should be useful for the snowmobile, if nothing else. This is further north than I've ever been before (5km outside the Arctic Circle), so I'd welcome advice from anyone else with relevant experience.

As for general planning, I recently read a guidebook (Finland - Culture Smart!). That seemed quite informative, although I won't really be able to judge how useful/accurate it is until I get there. I've also bought a language guide by the same author (Teach Yourself Complete Finnish). I was tempted by From Start To Finnish, since I admire a good pun, but the other book seems more relevant to me based on reviews. Apparently the guide I bought goes up to level B2 of the Common European Framework for Languages (CEFR); based on Durham's guide, that's equivalent to an A or A* grade at A level. I don't expect to get anywhere near that level before I go, so I'll be happy if I can just learn the basics, e.g. counting to ten and asking for directions. Hopefully there will be people there who speak English, but I think it's polite for me to make a bit of an effort.

Aside from all that, I just need to practice the actual swimming. We've had relatively mild weather, so the water in the lido was about 4.5°C yesterday. (The lifeguards said 5°, one of the members said 4°, and another member said 4.5°, so either the thermometers aren't calibrated properly or the result varies depending on the time of day and the depth of the water.) Normally I wouldn't complain, but in this case I hope it does get a bit colder before March, to help me acclimatise. Ah well, I'll just have to see what happens.

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Comments:

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From:shuripentu
Date:January 26th, 2014 11:23 am (UTC)
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You definitely want layered clothing in cold climates in general, not least because they tend to be well heated once you're indoors anywhere and it's handy to be able to adjust your insulation level to suit. If you have a balaclava, bring it; if you don't, bring either a scarf that's long enough to go around your neck and face, or bring two scarves. Once temperatures go below -20C, covering your face and ears becomes desirable (and possibly necessary if there's a good wind).

Pretty much everyone you meet will speak English; that said, Finnish is written entirely phonetically and has totally regular stress patterns, so if you learn how to produce all the sounds associated with all the letters, you'll at least be able to read signs and be understood.
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From:johnckirk
Date:January 27th, 2014 05:54 pm (UTC)
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Thanks, that's useful. I don't have a balaclava, but I do have a "buff" and a scarf, and we're all getting team hats that will cover our ears.
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From:sammoore
Date:January 27th, 2014 10:12 pm (UTC)
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I used my buff extensively in both Arctic Norway and Finland, in combination with a warm hat. I found it useful as a scarf to stop hot air escaping from my jacket and useful to pull up around my ears and over my nose when the wind got up, like a lightweight balaclava.

When I was too hot and needed to take it off it wrapped neatly around my wrist a couple of times and I could forget I had it with me.

I can also recommend a pair of magic gloves (google them) which, for about a pound, are a great base layer to wear under warmer gloves or when you are out of the wind. They also don't matter if you lose them or leave them in a cafe because they are only a pound!

Don't forget you will probably be able to buy stuff in Rovenami as well. Ruth bought a pair of thermal longjohns in a supermarket in Tromso for £25 that would have been £60 in the UK.
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From:pozorvlak
Date:February 3rd, 2014 04:12 pm (UTC)
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While shuripentu has spent a lot more time in really cold climates than me - I've been to the Arctic Circle, but only in summer - I'd like to expand on what she says above and disagree with it to some extent. Layers have a couple of things going for them:

1. They trap air between them, which itself provides insulation. All else being equal, two layers weighing W/2 will be warmer than one layer weighing W.
2. They allow for relatively precise adjustment of your temperature.

However, adjusting a complex layering system for big swings in temperature may well require adding or removing several layers at once, which takes time and faff and requires somewhere to store lots of layers that aren't in use.

Hence, large numbers of thin layers are good for activities like hillwalking, where your heat output is roughly constant and stopping to add or remove a layer isn't usually a big deal, or polar travel where getting the temperature right is critical (too cold and you get hypothermia; too hot and you sweat and the sweat freezes and you get hypothermia). For activities like winter climbing, which are very stop-start (either you're climbing and working hard, or belaying and not moving much), it's better to use a relatively small number (1-3) of thin layers, plus a Big Thick Jacket for when you stop. If you're going to be going in and out of buildings a lot, that's probably a better model to aim for - removing half-a-dozen layers every time you go inside gets old fast, particularly if buildings tend to be overheated.

On the other hand, your skiing jacket may not be warm enough for this to be a viable option - it's designed to be worn while skiing, which burns a lot of calories. If so, you'll need more layers. I'd aim for baselayer + one or two midlayers + Big Thick Jacket (plus gloves, hat etc), but pack a couple of extra layers and use them if that's too cold.
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From:Mike Prior-Jones
Date:February 3rd, 2014 04:25 pm (UTC)
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I would strongly recommend that you buy yourself an insulated boiler suit. These are practical, warm one-piece garments that can be rapidly zipped on and off, which sounds ideal for your application. Perhaps not the most stylish thing to wear on the street though!

We used to have these at BAS: http://www.dickiesstore.co.uk/dickies-workwear/dickies-and-redhawk-overalls/dickies-deluxe-overalls/WD2360R

I would echo Sam's points about buffs and gloves. I like Marigold Industrial KT2 gloves as a thin liner, and they're cheap enough to be disposable.
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From:pozorvlak
Date:February 3rd, 2014 04:28 pm (UTC)
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That would also keep your legs warm when needed!
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From:johnckirk
Date:February 4th, 2014 12:28 am (UTC)
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Thanks (to you and everyone else) - this is all very useful information. My only concern about a boiler suit is that I haven't had much luck with 1-piece outfits. Compared to the average person my height, my legs are quite long and my torso is quite short. So, whenever I wear my cycling bib tights, I have to keep yanking them up because the torso is too long. I also bought a wetsuit recently, and the ankles are around my calves while the crotch is a bit lower than it should be (i.e. torso too long and legs too short). The only thing that fits properly is my onesie, because that's not supposed to be form fitting (the "crotch" is somewhere around knee level).
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From:shuripentu
Date:February 3rd, 2014 04:28 pm (UTC)
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I don't think I've ever worn more than 4 torso layers (5 if you include my vest), and I've been out in -30C; down to about -20C I usually go with a fairly normal (or at least I think it's fairly normal) t-shirt + jumper + standard department store issue winter coat. I certainly wasn't thinking of as many as half a dozen layers when I suggested layering! Perhaps I should have explicitly mentioned layering socks, trousers, and gloves – people tend to remember to insulate their torsos but forget that the rest of their body needs just as much attention.

The weather in Rovaniemi is looking pretty mild at the moment anyway – warm enough there for me to be out in a t-shirt under the right circumstances. ;)
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From:sammoore
Date:January 26th, 2014 09:10 pm (UTC)
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That's quite an adventure. I should take a book for the Finnish train journey, there is only so long that snow covered pine trees retain any interest!

Photos from Northern Finland here, about 300km north of where you are going but I'm told it looks pretty similar!

http://www.flickr.com/photos/sammoore/sets/72157629401151853/

Sam
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From:johnckirk
Date:January 27th, 2014 05:57 pm (UTC)
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Yes, I'll definitely be stocking up my ereader with plenty of books. In theory this could be a great opportunity for me to finally read something substantial, e.g. "War and Peace" or "The Gulag Archipelago". In practice, I'll probably just read Star Trek and/or zombie novels :)

And thanks for those photos - the Northern Lights do look impressive, so I hope I'll get to see them while I'm there.
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From:sulkyblue
Date:January 26th, 2014 10:15 pm (UTC)
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Wow, that sounds like quite the trek. I'm very impressed at the logistics of working out the various stops.

Out of interest - how does the carbon footprint of three days on train compare to the relatively short flight? I presume mile for mile trains are far more environmentally friendly, but given that the trains go the (very) long way round, is that still the case?

Were you not tempted to stop a bit longer in the cities when you transfer? It seems a shame to go to so many interesting places but not actually get to leave the station most of the time.
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From:johnckirk
Date:January 27th, 2014 06:07 pm (UTC)
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That's an interesting question about the carbon emissions - I think I'll need to dig into that for a while, and make it a follow-up post. Based on some quick digging online (e.g. here), planes generate 0.09429 kg CO2/km and trains generate 0.01502 kg CO2/km. So, that means that 1 km by plane ~= 6.2 km by train. I'm certainly going further by train, but probably not that much further. The other aspect is that electric trains could theoretically use alternate energy sources, e.g. solar power, whereas planes have to use oil.

As for longer stops, the main issue is annual leave. (I've booked 8 days off for this, and another 10 days for my 4 LARP events.) That said, if I left London on Sunday rather than Monday then I could spend a bit longer in Brussels, so I'll have a look and see whether it would be feasible to change my ticket.
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From:pozorvlak
Date:February 3rd, 2014 03:33 pm (UTC)
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There are a couple more complicating factors:

1. Planes also emit water vapour in the stratosphere, which is a GHG. Hence their CO2eq emissions are around twice their raw CO2 emissions.
2. Not all trains are equal - high-speed trains use significantly more energy per passenger-mile than slow trains.

It's not clear to me whether the site you link to takes point 1 into account, but if it uses Eurostar figures for the trains then it's probably overestimating the emissions of your train journey. I'd thought high-speed train emissions were roughly on a par with planes' - perhaps the difference is short-haul versus long-haul flying? Short-haul flights have much higher emissions per passenger-mile, as much of the energy is used in takeoff and landing.
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From:shuripentu
Date:February 3rd, 2014 04:30 pm (UTC)
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And don't forget the ferries!
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